Soccerstoriesbook's Blog


AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM, PART XLV

“It’s official:  Sunday night’s telecast of Super Bowl XLV is the most-watched program in television history, in terms of viewership,” reports Milton Kent, sports media writer for The Associated Press.

“Fox, which aired Green Bay’s 31-25 win over Pittsburgh, breathlessly reported Monday that 111 million viewers tuned in to watch.  That tops the 106.5 million who tuned in to see the final episode of M*A*S*H in 1983.

“This marks the fourth straight year that a Super Bowl telecast has set a viewership record, marking the first time a major sporting event has hit record highs in four straight years.  More impressively, Super Bowl viewership from 2005 to Sunday night has increased by 25 million viewers.

“In ratings terms, the Super Bowl posted a 46.0 rating and 69 share, meaning 46 percent of the nation’s households were tuned in to the game, while 69 percent of all television sets that were on at the time were watching the contest.  That ties Sunday’s game for ninth on the list of highest-rated Super Bowls and 16th on the all-time list of most-watched shows, occupying those spaces with the same telecast, that of Super Bowl XXX aired by NBC in 1996 between the Steelers and Dallas.”  [February 7]

Comment:  “The most-watched program in television history . . . .”

We all know that the solar system revolves not around the sun nor the earth but the United States.  Nevertheless, Kent becomes the latest in a miles-long line of American media members who can’t bring themselves to qualify their remarks when it comes to the domestic versus the Universe at large.

The most-watched program in television history is, of course, the 2010 World Cup final between Spain and Holland.  The second most-watched program in television history was the 2006 World Cup final between Italy and France.  And so on.  Even the moon landing in 1969 (roughly 500 million) doesn’t come close.

The question is, how many people actually saw the Spaniards overcome the cynical antics of the Dutch to win a far-from-classic final in Johannesburg last summer?   A common guesstimate is two billion; FIFA puts the number at 700 million.

FIFA has every reason to inflate the figures.  After all, its sponsors–Budweiser, McDonald’s, MTN, Satyam–and marketing partners like adidas and Coca-Cola paid dearly for billions of eyeballs, not millions.  But maybe FIFA is wrong.

It has often been said that soccer is big abroad because the yokels have no choice when it comes to sports.  They have soccer and, um, track and field and, um, chess.  We, on the other hand, have three big sports to choose from (none of them soccer), plus another dozen or so sports (one of them soccer),  plus hamburgers, Disneyland and “American Idol.”   However, if one-third of a distracted America can rally around one of its three favorite sports once a year, then the rest of the world, sorely lacking in pleasant distractions, can surely muster up a third of itself to watch its favorite sport.  In a world of six billion-plus, that would be about two billion.

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